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David Denton
David's Review Corner, September 2009

The young Russian guitarist, Irina Kulikova, has received a number of major competition awards, the most recent, the 2008 Michele Pittaluga Guitar Competition in the city of Alessandria, resulting in this recording. Her choice of music steers her well away from flashy brilliance, her concentration on the quiet and withdrawn aspects of Manuel Ponce’s Sonata III, revealing a very caring performer. Phrases are shaped with affection, dynamic contrasts faithfully observed, the left-hand fingers very nimble in the work’s finale. I have never found Alexander Tansman’s Variations on a Theme of Scriabin, gripping my attention, and Kulikova does not alter my coolness, its slow and introverted character lacking the melodic invention that would compensate. Moving to the vivacious opening of Ponce’s Sonatina Meridional is doubly welcome and shows Kulikova’s clean articulation in both hands and her ability to create so many tonal shades. The finale is full of vivacity, and comes in contrast to the next track, Leo Brouwer’s Variations on a theme of Django Reinhardt. It was the result of a commission to write a test piece for the Radio France Guitar Competition in 1984, and looks at the finer points of guitar technique. Maybe she could have found a more invigorating concluding work, Antonio Jose’s Sonata always seeming to be on the brink of something enlivening but never quite getting there until the finale. The Canadian sound team have produced another superb product.

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